“We have to sell the house.”
My wife’s reaction to finding out she was pregnant eight months after giving birth to our first child encapsulated the major difference between us. Regardless of the news that she’s given, my wife always looks ahead. I, on the other hand, tend to look back. Whether it’s a shocking monthly credit card statement or another baby, I’m always asking myself, “How could this have happened? I was so careful.”
To be fair, in the eight months after our daughter was born, you could count the times my wife and I had sex on a single hand. A whole hand is probably a bit generous. You’d really only need the thumb, the ring finger, and the pinky, or the pinky, the middle, and the pointer, or any other three-digit combination from that one sad hand. The lack of activity combined with the fact my wife was still breastfeeding made getting pregnant a virtual impossibility…or so we thought.
We found out about the baby in October and put our small townhouse on the market right after the New Year. The time gap between the solid pink lines and the “For Sale” sign may sound like a long one, but it certainly didn’t feel that way. Between meeting with a realtor, getting the house sell-ready, and going through our first holiday season with a kid, it was a small miracle we were ready to go by the start of the 2017.
My wife, normally the most organized and efficient person I know, was the first to admit pregnancy brain had hit her hard. Perpetually overstressed, she’d spend the bulk of her time creating lists of urgent projects that needed to get done ASAP, instantly forgetting about said projects and demanding I drop everything to complete a new task that undid all the work I’d just done.
A dream I had summed it up best: My wife demanded I rent hordes of poisonous snakes and dangerous reptiles for the child’s birthday party we were hosting. After putting the reptiles in pens in the herpetarium that, for some reason, we had in our family home, I was chewed out for animal cruelty. “These creatures need to be free,” my wife demanded. “Just let them roam.”
But just as I was setting the last of the rattlesnakes free, my wife had another change of heart. “Are you crazy? The kids will be here any minute, you need to get the animals back in their cages!”
During the subsequent round-up, I was bitten by a rattler. A concerned stranger tried taking me to the hospital when I ran into my wife.
“Where the hell are you going?” my subconscious’s version of my better half asked.
“To the hospital. I was bitten by a rattlesnake,” I said. “If I don’t get treatment, I’ll die.”
“Oh no you’re not,” my wife informed me. “We have way too much shit to do right now.”
Then there were the showings. Even under the most ideal circumstances, showings are brutal. You know the way you clean your house when you’re having people over – judgy people you don’t necessarily like but feel compelled to lie to about the state in which you keep your home? That’s what it felt like. Only it happened five or more times per week, often with only a few hours’ notice. Plus, there was our one-year-old, Emma, added into the equation.
We spent a lot of time rushing to get our one-year-old and our Boston Terrier out the door before the house-hunters arrived. Outdoors wasn’t an option so we’d usually camp out at some chain restaurant.
Inside Panera or Qdoba, I’d walk Emma around while my wife sat glued to her phone, staring remotely at the baby monitor/spy cam in our daughter’s room and waiting for the prospective buyers to enter. Virtually every person who came through our daughter’s room pointed to the camera and laughingly said, “Look, I wonder if we’re being watched.”
They were being watched, my wife was watching them like a damn hawk. During one of her spying sessions, my wife saw a visibly intoxicated woman crawl into our daughter’s crib because “it looked so comfortable.”
The house search wasn’t much easier. Most of our 20-some visits took place after work hours with daughter and Boston terrier in tow. As we inched closer to our third-trimester deadline without finding a home we could see ourselves raising a family in, we created a rule: “If Emma takes her first step in this house, we’re putting an offer in.”
But we never had to follow our silly rule. When our realtor showed us a place that was meant “for a very specific type of buyer,” we knew we’d found our spot. The house itself covered all our needs, but what we fell in love with was the view. Directly behind the house, a deck sat atop a steep embankment leading to a swiftly moving creek with a wooded island across the water.
When I was a kid, my sister and I used to fantasize about the houses we’d live in as grown-ups. I only had one criteria: it had to have a creek right in the backyard. It’s hard to believe how many years have passed since then. Now, as an actual grown up, I’ll often sit out on my new deck, watching the water snaking its way downstream and thinking about how many strange twists and turns my life has had to take for me to wind up in that house with a creek in the backyard.